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Finns Revamp Defense Policy, Focus on Situational Awareness

Oct. 29, 2013 - 07:52AM   |  
By GERARD O’DWYER   |   Comments
Military Maneuver European Endeavour 2006
A Finnish soldier patrols near Ulm, Germany, as part of efforts with Germany and the Netherlands to strengthen European rapid response capabilities. Improved situational awareness is key to Finn modernization plans. (Getty Images)
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HELSINKI — Development of an integrated battlefield C4ISR network underpins Finland’s efforts to reform its national defense into a more mobile force that gains advantage through superior situational awareness.

Called Warrior 2020, the first segments of the network are due to be field-tested in 2014.

The key objective of the Warrior 2020 program is to develop and launch a modern soldier system. Under the plan, various primary technologies and systems are to be field tested in 2014-16, while the main procurement phase is expected to take place in 2017-18

“In order to have the soldier system operational and ready for troops by 2020, this will require procurement to start by 2017. To avoid any teething troubles and technological problems, the testing with real prototypes, or even pre-series systems, must be begin in 2014,” said Maj. Matti Honkela, program manager, Warrior 2020.

The Warrior 2020 project’s reach has seen the Finnish Armed Forces (FAF) look for relevant soldier system solutions from domestic and foreign defense technology innovators. The search for cutting-edge technologies began under the technology program 2010-Warrior. This program sought to identify best-in-class technologies in the areas of situational awareness, communications, C4I subsystems, lightweight superior ballistic protection and smart munitions systems.

The first six projects, which directly or indirectly support the development of soldier system capabilities, are scheduled to be rolled out for initial field testing in 2014. The soldier system solutions are rated by four different grades based on troop type and task-specific roles.

A fundamental requirement is that the complete Warrior 2020 equipment system be designed as an integrated, networked whole.

The development of Warrior 2020 soldier systems’ equipment constitutes an integral pillar in the transition of the FAF’s land warfare doctrine, according to Lt. Gen. Mika Peltonen, the FAF’s deputy chief of staff for operations.

“Previously, the soldier’s equipment was accepted as mainly consisting of clothing, but now the focus has moved to the development of the soldier’s overall capabilities,” Peltonen said. “The new focus is on the soldier’s combat system.”

The FAF’s new land warfare strategy includes a remodeled national defense system based on a centralized command structure and territorial main maneuver forces comprising operational brigades and mechanized battalions, supported by so-called defending and offensive units, and company-sized military operations in urban terrain units.

What makes the FAF’s new warfare system different from its previous “area holding” doctrine is the flexible use of mobile land forces backed by updated battlefield strategies that focus on improved knowledge of battle terrain and the situational threat picture, as well as offensive planning and countermeasures to cause optimum loss through surprise attacks.

The FAF began its shift toward a new soldier system in 2004, when studies were commissioned and preliminary testing conducted that involved a range of scientific communities, as well as participation by Finland’s defense and information technology sectors, to develop future soldier system technologies.

“The research focus areas include situational data, understanding it and delivering it at different levels of organization,” Peltonen said. “The soldier’s overall capability is the sum of its parts. In this light, the capacity to act and survive, and the development of mobility have been studied alongside of situational awareness and leadership capacity.”

Research results produced under the Technology Program 2010-Warrior will be utilized in the soldier system projects earmarked in 2014, Peltonen said.

The Warrior 2020 project is regarded as among the FAF’s most robust responses to the political, cost-reduction-driven Military Organization Reform Program (MORP). The parallel Warrior 2020 and soldier system programs form central parts of the MORP framework, which aims to deliver defense more cost-efficiently. MORP’s cost savings aspect produced decisions to close six garrisons and reduce mobilized troops from 350,000 to 230,000 by 2015.

On the operational side, the FAF’s need to do more with less is clearly visible in the latest budget figures. Finland will spend US $3.67 billion on defense in 2014, less than the $3.84 billion budgeted for 2013.

Finland’s spending on defense as a ratio to gross domestic product has been falling since 2008, and is expected to decline further to 1.47 percent in 2013 and 1.36 percent in 2014.

The new battlefield concept is centered on the operation of modular designed, better equipped and more mobile territorial units using modern weaponry and highly trained task-specific troops. The primary objective, and challenge, underpinning the MORP is to deliver a higher level of land warfare strike capability using more professionalized forces and fewer resources. Efforts to find relevant technology solutions to develop the FAF’s soldier system have included preliminary field tests on night vision systems, assault rifles, simulators, ballistic protection and helmet systems.

The Warrior 2020 program initially looked at existing future soldier technologies such as the French FELIN and the German IdZ Infantryman of The Future combat systems. They both embrace a modular, integrated fighting system design that provides significant lethality, body armor, survivability, mobility and battle command gear. They both also come with a smart technology helmet fitted with real-time positioning, information relay and rechargeable night vision systems.

But the FAF’s budget has limited Warrior 2020 to a “step-by-step approach” to system procurement. Technology solutions also are being developed and improved using the direct input of Finnish soldiers with recent combat experience.

“Based on their battle theater experiences in Afghanistan, soldiers observed that only the most important and vital things are noticed in close combat situations, and when life is threatened,” Honkela said.

The industrial side of Warrior 2020 has seen the program work on specific material- and task-focused projects with domestic and foreign companies, including Finnish defense companies Millog (sensor fusion and target acquisition), NetHawk (communications technologies) and Insta DefSec (situational awareness technologies), as well as Canadian group EXFO (commercial, off-the-shelf communications solutions, messaging and navigation) and Israel’s Elbit Systems (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance systems).

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